Book Review: The China Choice

The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power

The China Choice: Why We Should Share Power by Hugh White examines the China as a rising power. He is a professor of strategic studies at Australia’s National University and formerly a a senior official at the (Australian) Department of Defence from 1995-2000. White has an impressive background and well versed in in foreign affairs. 

Three things are needed for a nation to be considered a super power: Military strength, political strength, and economic strength. During the Cold War, the United States had all three strengths. The Soviet Union had the political and military strength; and managed to fake economic power. Americans worried about Japan’s rise as a power starting in the 1970s. Although Japan still has the third largest economy in the wold, it has no military power and limited political power. Today China rising, not as fast as it had earlier, but still rising. 

China today exhibits economic power. It is a regional military power and arguably a political power (keeping North Korea on a short leash is not working well). Previously, military power has been demonstrated by large naval fleets and aircraft carriers. China does not have the naval strength to invade Taiwan, but enough of a navy, particularly submarines, to make an on coming carrier fleet ineffective. The image of military might has changed since the Cold War. There is little doubt that the United States has the most powerful and technological military in the history of the world. But not all battles are fought head to head. The United States failed in Vietnam and the USSR failed in Afghanistan. Unless the United States can get it’s military to China, it’s military threat is ineffective. Granted the US has nuclear weapons, but what would it take to use them in Asia and risk nuclear retaliation?

United States has a long history as a power in Asia. Even during Vietnam, when things looked bad for the United States in Asia, Kissinger and Nixon opened relations with China. China gained political clout and the United States retained its role as a power in Asia. United States and China are not the only players in Asia. Japan, although a major economic power, relies on the United States for military security. In the event of conflict with China, what would Japan be able to contribute and what risk will it take for the United States to remain a regional power? South Korea has a vibrant economy and also enjoys United States’ protection, but its primary concern is North Korea either defending itself or reunification. What is Russia’s role on Asia? 

China presents a different challenge to the United States. Our economies are intertwined and as the top two economies the world, the world depends on our peaceful existence. Although China has a miserable record on human rights and repressing its population, it is not exporting revolution or communism. China wants stability and with it a growing share of influence. United States has three options: confront China, share power with China, or leave Asia. The American public may lean towards confrontation, but that is not always practical . Leaving Asia would not serve America’s economic and security interests. Sharing power may be the practical solution and the option that White supports. China’s rise will unlikely lead to the old Cold War bipolar world. Examining China’s rise in power and the effects it has on the United States presents an interesting study of how two major powers who are not enemies can go about sharing power and not create havoc in the world. An excellent read on current foreign affairs and one of the larger challenges facing the United States.

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